Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What I Learned From My Editor #2 - "Show, Don't Tell"

If you've ever watched "Star Trek - Next Generation", you will be familiar with their writers' technique of using the 'personal log' voice-over to set a scene. But although this might work on "Star Trek", you can't get away with it when writing a novel. When the voiceover says, 'Worf's personal log. I have discovered what ship my brother Kern is serving on. I have arranged to meet him', it smacks rather too much of "telling, not showing".

This is a cardinal sin in the writing group and I am well aware of this. That doesn't mean I never do it myself. I'm a linear sort of person. I like beginnings, middles and endings, and I like narratives to follow a chronological line. I have a bad habit of indulging in the urge to over-explain things to my reader, especially when I'm writing in first person.

One aspect of this is the "Too Much Information", syndrome I talked about in the first post in this series. But I've also had to learn to "show, not tell". If my character is angry, I shouldn't need to say so. She should be stomping around slamming doors or throwing things.

Writing about emotion can be difficult. A character who slams doors is one thing, but how do you show your character falling in love? Well, I'm still struggling with this - at least on paper - so I'm not the best qualified person to offer advice here. But it seems that what a character does and says in the presence of another character, if written well, can make it very evident that these two people are falling in love, without anyone having to directly refer to it.

I think as far as characters are concerned I'm better at doing "angry" than "love". But working on the edits of DEATH SCENE, my editor advised me to to work a bit more on the relationship between my MC and her love interest, so I was obliged to get in a bit of practice. And judging by the direction my character's been taking in the second book in the series, I suspect future books about my amateur sleuth are going to offer plenty more opportunities for further practice....

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